Another week, another company meeting

We had another company meeting yesterday, and this is the part where I’m supposed to express my outrage. But you know something? It’s hard to be outraged when a typical meeting goes something like this for me.

10:30 AM Meeting begins.

10:30:05 I zone out.

Somewhere around noon, the meeting wraps up, and I think, “Well, that’s an hour and a half of my life I’ll never get back. This is a good representation of how the bossman sounds to me.

Finally, the end of the meeting arrived - or so I thought. The bossman looked around the room and asked if we had any more questions. Everyone was silent. It looked like we were going to be dismissed when someone asked one more question. DUDE! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? HE WAS ABOUT TO LET US GO! This question sparked 15 minutes of mind-numbing discussion I didn’t care about.

It goes without saying that I would be more productive at my desk than in a company meeting. However, at this point I’d be more productive if I just spent the entire meeting counting my arm hairs. Maybe next time there’s a company meeting, I’ll take a cue from the two brothers in Raising Arizona and release myself on my own recognizance.

Don’t put me in (the scrum), Coach

You know that saying “Ignorance is bliss”? Well, the more I learn about life in office hell, the more I realize that blissful ignorance is an amazing state in which to abide when it comes to live on the cubicle farm. I was just perusing some job boards when I came across these job titles: Scrum Coach and Scrum Master. Holy crap! Are you serious? To quote that bastion of intellectual activity Archer, “This can’t possibly be a thing.” This is outrageous for so many reasons.

First, do all you wonks know where the term scrum comes from? When you watch rugby and you see that mass of bodies, that’s a scrum. Does that look organized or enviable in any way? That mass of bodies moves this way and that, not to mention that it’s got to be hell on the joints of the players. And yet somehow this is the term used for employees trying to "reach a common goal."

Second, let’s just boil this down. What is a scrum when it comes to business? It’s a meeting - one of the least effective ways to get things done in an office. Therefore, if we extrapolate this out, a scrum coach is someone who instructs people on how to be completely ineffectual in their jobs. Congratulations, all you scrum masters out there! You have somehow made yourselves appear valuable without contributing anything tangible to an organization. Frankly, this seems like as big a scam as a life coach.

Another thing that floors me about this whole scrum coach thing is that there are actual classes you can take to become a scrum master. GREAT GOOGILY MOOGILY! And you thought those philosophy and geology classes you had to take in college were worthless. Is this really the progress we’ve made? We get some guy (or chick) who’s like Sylvester McMonkey McBean in the Dr. Seuss story The Sneetches and tells us of a certain way we have to do things. Instead of telling that guy to pound sand, we actually tell him he makes a good point and then fall right into line while this snake-oil salesman coaches us to have more effective meetings. Oh, and we pay that snake-oil salesman handsomely for telling us that we’ve been doing it wrong all this time. Yeah coach, I’d love to stick around for this, but I have a date - with ignorance.

I can relate to the title of this book. I was once declined for a position with the Department of Transportation because I didn’t “have the gumption.”

I can relate to the title of this book. I was once declined for a position with the Department of Transportation because I didn’t “have the gumption.”

Another training? Haven’t we exhausted these things yet?

So we had another training today. This one was called - ah hell, I don’t know what it was called. I paid as much attention to this one as I have to any other training we’ve had. And besides, every last one of these training sessions is the same. Someone stands up in front of the room and reads the PowerPoint slides about material that has no bearing on me - or probably anyone else. Of course they could just send the PowerPoint slides to everyone. After all, we all know how to read. But someone misses out on a quarterly bonus if there’s no formal training.

One good thing is that the end of the quarter is at the end of this month, so we (hopefully) don’t have to sit through any more of these things and help someone get a bonus for another couple months. The other good thing is that when we have one of these training sessions, it’s not entirely worthless. I can usually catch some Zs while the training instructor is droning on and reading PowerPoint slides to me.image

 PowerPoint - like a very boring bedtime story for adults.

Another quiz? When did I re-enroll in school?

I just had to take another quiz for work. This one was about our data-protection policy. Now, I have done a lot of pointless exercises in this job, but I can’t remember anything more futile than this. Let me take you through it. We received a message about this quiz, and this message included a link to some training materials that we were supposed to read before the quiz. It was no big deal - just 11 PowerPoint slides. Granted, it wasn’t interesting, but it was easy enough to comprehend.

Then I clicked on the link to take the quiz. Let me take you back to when you were 16 or 17 and you were taking the SAT or ACT. You would usually find questions like this one.

An eastbound train leaves Denver at 4:30 PM traveling at 45 miles per hour. Another train heading westward leaves Chicago at 5:12 PM traveling at 53 miles per hour. Which train is carrying more lumber?

Naturally, your response was, “What kind of stupid f@#*ing question is that?” Well, whoever wrote the questions for this must have experience writing questions for college-entrance exams. This quiz about our data-protection policy had no correlation whatsoever to the “training materials.” Yet somehow, we all have to score 70% or better within five attempts to pass this quiz. I imagine that if you can’t pass it within five attempts, you’re sentenced to the work equivalent of detention: a four-hour PowerPoint presentation (given by a terminally-dull person who actually finds this rubbish interesting) training you about all the ins, outs, and what-have-yous of our data-protection policy. I did pass it on the second attempt, but guess what. My understanding of the data-protection policy is not any better because I passed the quiz. In fact, I’ve already forgotten anything I was supposed to learn from this exercise.

This is the height of the absurd. One of the things we hear constantly around our office is that we “don’t have the resources.” Yet we always seem to find the resources for junk like this. So, let me give a little pop quiz of my own.

Requiring employees to take quizzes just so some employee can meet his or her quarterly goals is stupid and pointless.
A. True
B. False

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I’ve been company-meeting comatose

You’ll have to pardon me for not posting in a while. I was in a coma induced by a company meeting. It couldn’t be helped, really. After all, we’ve had (I think) four company meetings since the new bossman showed up about three months ago. And here’s the thing. Every single company meeting is the same. It goes a little something like this.

The bossman takes the microphone and says, “Welcome to our company meeting. How come no one’s sitting up front? Come on, sit up here in front.” 

No one does.

The bossman then gives a brief introduction to the meeting and presents the requisite 30 to 40 PowerPoint slides, to which no one really pays attention. Then he wraps things up and asks if anyone has any questions.

No one does. 

He then basically pleads for us to come up with questions, which we don’t.

Listen, boss, you’re in a tough spot. I know you’re here to rally the troops. We’ve had a tough go of things for a few years, and you’ve ridden into town to get us back on the right track. Here’s the thing though. We’ve all had the care beaten out of us since our uberfuhrers took over. That’s why no one sits up front, and why no one has any questions at these company meetings. Oh, and one more thing. If you really want to endear yourself to us, pizza at the company meetings is a nice gesture. However, fewer company meetings would be an even nicer gesture. 

I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.

This is a transcript of an actual conversation I had with a co-worker yesterday.

Co-worker: “Are you going today?”

Me (perplexed): “Going where?”

Co-worker: “To the bowling thing.”

Me: “Is that today?”

Co-worker: “Yes.”

Me: “Then I guess you have your answer.”

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Team building…or how to suck all the fun out of bowling

A notice went out recently about a company bowling event. Whoe doesn’t love bowling? It should be fun, right? Not so fast, my friend. This is, after all, a company event, so all the potential fun has to be sucked out of it. How do they do that? By making bowling into a team-building activity. GAAAAAAAAAAH! Team building! That’s another one of those terms that makes me grind my teeth to dust. How bad could it be, you ask? Well, Let’s just have a look.

Colored pins are mixed in with the usual white pins so you can score more points than you ordinarily would. Mind you, you’re not knocking down any more pins. You’re just getting more points if you knock over the colored pins. Part of the package is “unique team identifiers”. So your team gets assigned the color yellow and everyone gets a yellow wristband? Or maybe headbands? (Obviously, it would be too expensive to have a shirt as the “unique identifier” for every participant.)

Then there is the part about having a team-building facilitator. What the hell is this? We leave work to do something fun, and a facilitator is involved? Listen! I don’t want to meet with facilitators during work, let alone when I’m doing some leisure activity. What exactly does this facilitator do to help you? Give you bowling lessons between frames? Or is it something more sinister, like plotting against the other teams so your team can come out ahead? Oh, and does the facilitator get the unique team identifier? I should hope so.

And finally there is the pizza. OK, before I rant on that, allow me to say…pizza and bowling? What are we, 12 years old? Do we need a permission slip? And do we need our parents to drop us off at the bowling alley? But it’s not just making pizza. It’s a pizza-making challenge. Since when is making pizza a challenge? Worse than that is the notion that making a pizza with your team requires creative thinking. Really? I guess it is pretty hard to just talk with your teammates to figure out what the majority of the people on the team like and what toppings should be avoided. And this whole thing is going to be judged? Who judges the pizza challenge? The facilitators?

Obviously, I won’t be at this event, but I just have to ask: what kind of soulless evil slug can take all the fun out of going bowling and making pizza? The kind of soulless evil slug that thinks team-building activities are good ideas.